Sustained gay activism in Charlotte, North Carolina, only emerged in response to the HIV AIDS epidemic. Community building among Charlotte’s closeted gays and lesbians began in the 1970s with the emergence of safe spaces, particularly gay bars. However, before the mid 1980s, activism was intermittent, largely inward facing, and suffered from over-reliance on a few leaders. As the reality of AIDS gripped the community after 1985, two imperatives created by the epidemic gave rise to sustained gay and lesbian activism. First, the critical need to provide care for people suffering from AIDS galvanized the gay community into action and led to the creation of the Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP). MAP became the first outward looking and visible gay organization in Charlotte, and, critically, it enjoyed a degree of civic legitimacy. However, this civic legitimacy did not extend to the second imperative, the more contentious terrain of AIDS education. In this arena Charlotte’s gay activists came into conflict with the Religious Right and the county government, which forced activists to become more politically organized. By the early 1990s, it became clear that further progress would require partnerships with straight allies, but because these allies were motivated largely by sympathy for AIDS there was limited progress on the broader gay rights agenda. The timing of gay activism and the necessity for straight alliances shows that Charlotte’s experience as a mid-size Southern city differed from larger metropolitan areas and progressive university/capital cities that have been the focus of previous historiography.
|Commitee:||Brintnall, Kent, Goldfield, David|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Charlotte|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||MAI 57/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, LGBTQ studies|
|Keywords:||Charlotte, Gay activism, HIV/AIDS, North Carolina, Religious Right|
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